Commodity Conversations Weekly Press Summary

The Ivory Coast and Ghana – responsible for two-thirds of the global cocoa supply – implemented a USD 400/mt premium called the living income differential (LID) last year in order to avoid environmental and human rights abuse. However, they have been struggling with low sales since amid a drop in demand caused by the coronavirus. Moreover, the countries accused Hershey of bypassing the premium by buying unusually large amounts on the ICE exchange. In response, all of Hershey’s cocoa sustainability schemes in the countries were cancelled. The latest Cocoa Barometer report suggested that voluntary efforts so far have mostly failed at addressing issues in the cocoa industry. They call on governments to make food buyers liable for abuse in their supply chain. 

Voters in Switzerland were presented with a law that would accomplish just that last week. In what became the country’s most expensive voting campaign ever, the initiative proposed to make Swiss firms like Nestle and Glencore liable for abuse committed by suppliers overseas. The proposal won the popular vote, getting a 50.7% approval, but failed on regional grounds as a majority was not reached in most cantons – an unusual occurrence in Switzerland. Activists warned that Switzerland could fall behind the global trend, as France, Britain and Canada already have such laws in place while the EU is working on its own plan. 

In the US, lawyers are still debating whether a 1789 statute used to charge Nestle and Cargill over a forced labour case can be applied to corporations instead of only individuals. The Supreme Court heard arguments this week concerning the 15-year old case brought by former forced labourers in the Ivory Coast. The plaintiffs argued that the companies were complicit because they failed to properly monitor their supply chain and refused to pay a high enough price for cocoa. The court seemed to suggest that Cargill and Nestle could indeed be liable for breaking international law, although the evidence in this particular case was not enough to directly link the corporations with the practice of forced labour. Bloomberg predicted that Cargill and Nestle might get a “narrow victory” in the case.

In India, the government’s attempt to reform the farm sector was met by a wave of protest since three laws were passed in September. The government is looking to remove regulated wholesale markets and the need for middlemen by allowing private corporations to purchase food directly. Farmers, however, fear this will mark the end of the purchase of food crops at guaranteed prices. In addition, middlemen provide an essential service to farmers, often acting as the main source of financing. Officials are due to meet with farmers again this week but protesters threatened to maintain their blockade until the government guarantees to maintain the minimum price scheme. 

Food waste surged in Australia because of the coronavirus, according to the Rabobank 2020 Food Waste Report. Households were less concerned about food waste during lockdowns, while people stockpiled and ordered food through delivery services which led to nearly 13% of all groceries being wasted. 

Oysters producers on the East Coast of the US are left with massive supplies of unsold oysters because restaurants had to close with the pandemic. Household purchases of oysters are much smaller and many producers lack the licenses to sell directly to consumers. Nonetheless, the Nature Conservancy and the Pew Charitable Trusts stepped in and promised to spend USD 2 million to purchase unsold oysters. The organisations then plan to use the oysters to repopulate depleted reefs that have been suffering from overharvesting. 

The WWF has been busy trying to reduce the amount of waste in Singapore’s fish farm sector, where around 30% of the fish is wasted between producer and consumer. This involves improving processing methods and access to cold storage. Other groups noticed that 60% of the fish is often wasted when it is filleted. Activists created the Soup Spoon which uses fish offcuts to make soups, broth or chowder.

Foodstuffs, the owner of several supermarket chains in New Zealand, would call the process “upcycling food”. The group noted that just 17% of the food wasted in its stores was currently redistributed. By partnering with other food firms, Foodstuffs is now working to make its waste into more attractive offerings, such as beer made from old bread. Amazingly, the leftover yeast from the beer can then be used again to make more bread. In San Francisco, a pizzeria hopes to go even further and offer what it calls “trash pies”, pizzas made entirely from food waste. 

This summary was produced by ECRUU

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